Symphony No. 1 (Brahms)

Symphony No. 1 (Brahms)

The Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, is a symphony written by Johannes Brahms. Brahms spent at least fourteen years completing this work, whose sketches date from 1854. Brahms himself declared that the symphony, from sketches to finishing touches, took 21 years, from 1855 to 1876. The premiere of this symphony, conducted by the composer's friend Felix Otto Dessoff, occurred on November 4, 1876 in Karlsruhe, Germany. A typical performance lasts approximately 45–50 minutes.


The symphony is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, and strings.


The symphony is in four movements, marked as follows:

# Un poco sostenuto – Allegro – Meno allegro (C minor)
# Andante sostenuto (E major)
# Un poco allegretto e grazioso (A-flat major)
# Adagio – Più andante – Allegro non troppo, ma con brio – Più allegro (C major)


Brahms began composing his first symphony in 1854, but much of his work underwent radical changes.Leonard Burkat; liner notes for the 1998 recording (William Steinberg, conductor; Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; MCA Classics)] The long gestation of the symphony may be attributed to two factors. First, Brahms' self-critical fastidiousness led him to destroy many of his early works. Second, there was an expectation from Brahms' friends and the public that he would continue "Beethoven's inheritance" and produce a symphony of commensurate dignity and intellectual scope—an expectation that Brahms felt he could not fulfill easily in view of the monumental reputation of Beethoven.

The value and importance of Brahms' achievements were recognized by Vienna's most powerful critic and staunch conservative, Eduard Hanslick. The conductor Hans von Bülow was moved in 1877 to call the symphony "Beethoven's Tenth", due to perceived similarities between the work and various compositions of Beethoven. [cite book
title = The Lives of the Great Composers
edition = Revised
last = Schonberg
first = Harold C.
coauthors =
year = 1981
publisher = W. W. Norton & Company, New York, London
id = ISBN 0-393-01302-2
pages = 298
url ='s+tenth&source=web&ots=nFFhgxt_WZ&sig=f8rHmqCi01Qs15ANU4jbQwHv27I
] It is often remarked that there is a strong family resemblance between the main theme of the finale of Brahms' First Symphony and the main theme of the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the last symphony Beethoven composed. Also, Brahms uses the rhythm of the "fate" motto from the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. This rather annoyed Brahms; he felt that this amounted to accusations of plagiarism, whereas he saw his use of Beethoven's idiom in this symphony as an act of conscious homage. Brahms himself said, when comment was made on the similarity with Beethoven, "any ass can see that." [ [ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68] . The Kennedy Center, 2006] Nevertheless, this work is still often referred to as "Beethoven's Tenth" [ [ Back cover blurb] for David Lee Brodbeck, "Brahms: Symphony No. 1" Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1997). "Brahms’ First Symphony has been hailed as Beethoven’s Tenth."] . However, Brahms' horn theme, with the "fate" rhythm, was noted in a letter to Clara Schumann (dated 1868), overheard in an alphorn's playing. [ [] ]

Fritz Simrock, Brahms' friend and publisher, did not receive the score until after the work had been performed in three cities (with Brahms still wishing trial performances in at least three more still).

The manuscript to the first movement apparently does not survive, yet the remainder has been reproduced in miniature facsimile by Dover Publications.

Musical elements

The symphony begins with a broad introduction wherein three key elements are heard simultaneously: the low drumming, the rising figure in the strings, and the falling figure in the winds. This introduction was constructed after the remainder of the piece had been scored. The Allegro section of the movement is a large orchestral sonata, wherein musical ideas are stated, developed, and restated with altered relationships among them.

The second and third movements are lighter in tone and tension than the first and last movements. The slow movement, Andante sostenuto, exhibits gentle lyricism through three sections, the third of which is a new treatment of the themes from the first. The long violin solo is reminiscent of some of Beethoven's later works: the late quartets and "Missa Solemnis". The third, scherzo-like movement, has an easy spirit yet is full of complex rhythms and interwoven textures.

The fourth movement begins with a slow introduction, where a new melody competes with "gloomy dramatic rhetoric." In the Piu andante section, the horns and timpani introduce a tune that Brahms heard from an Alpine shepherd with the words, "High on the hill, deep in the dale, I send you a thousand greetings!" The last section—Allegro non troppo, ma con brio—contains a grand melody in a major key, as the novel, Beethoven-like main subject of the grand finale.

Brahms stated that when he was writing the lush first theme of the last movement in C major played by the strings, he was thinking of John 14:10: "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me."fact|date=August 2008


*Brahms, Johannes. With an introduction by Margit L. McCorkle."Symphony no. 1 in C minor, op. 68 : the autograph score." New York : Pierpont Morgan Library in association with Dover Publications, c1986. ISBN 0-486-24976-X.
*Frisch, Walter. "Brahms: The Four Symphonies" New Haven: Yale University Press (2003): 45 - 66
* [ Notes to a concert at the Kennedy Center, with information about the first performance of the work]
* [ Simrock, Brahms and Brahms' working habits]
*Abell, Arthur M. "Talks With Great Composers - Candid Conversations with Brahms, Puccini, Strauss. and Others". New York. First Carol Publishing Group, 1994.

External links

* [ Free recording] by the Columbia University Orchestra.
* [ Free score/The Columbia University]
* [ Performance of First Movement on Video--David Bernard conducting the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony]

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